AKC Obedience Advisory Committee

AKC is currently accepting recommendations for changes in obedience!  An advisory committee meeting will be held this summer.  I know, I know, it's not as if AKC has actually listened to the advisory committee in the past.  But let's be optimists!  Write your feedback here.

Here is what I will be arguing for:

1. Severing obedience and rally from the conformation "dog show" regulations.  Let's have general performance rules and thus allow changes to be made MUCH faster and with the use of common sense.  Changes like the simple allowance of "excused" dogs to count towards OTCH points or even the ability to wear clothing with a dog's name on it.  I'm pretty sure the judge can gather your dog's name in the first exercise!

2. Offer "championship" titles for the individual levels to reward continued showing.  Experienced people know that the training required to move from novice to open is huge and from open to utility even bigger.  We start training open and utility exercises from puppy hood so that there's not much of a wait between the classes.  But many new people aren't working on open and utility from early on and are no where near ready to move the next level once they get their CD or CDX.  I think CDSP and Cynosports have a fantastic idea by offering level championships.  CDSP offers these titles for earning 10 scores with a 185 or higher.  I see many people in this area going for them!  It's a win-win as CDSP gets to keep getting entry fees and the exhibitor and dog are able to keep up trialing experience.  It may even be some small motivation that they need to keep training obedience instead of getting sucked into their other sports training and leaving obedience on the sideline.

3. Changes to the stays.  I have lots of mixed feelings surrounding the group stays.  There's no denying I have a dog who has stress issues on them and we have failed the sit a lot.  But if you can look past that bias, I do think the stays are unsafe.  Fights are rare, disturbances are not.  My conservative estimate when I wrote a blog post on the stays was that 25% of trials have a case of one dog visiting another dog.  You can not deny that staring, sniffing, even humping of other dogs is not a rare occurrence in the "A" classes.  And no, the Pre classes are not an answer.  They are a great addition, but they are not a path for anyone who's serious about doing upper levels with their dog.  A Pre-UDX is just silly as the sit stay is half the battle for many working on that consistency title, and a Pre-OTCH would be even dumber as I highly doubt there would ever be any real competition.  To get an OTCH you have to be able to beat other OTCH dogs!!!  I do however love the pre classes lowered jump heights as an option for older dogs and they are a half answer for those of us who are unwilling to do group stays at all.

Since I think the AKC would roll over and die before getting rid of the stays, here's my actual suggestions on improving the safety:
a. Leashes attached and stretched out behind the dog.  Let's make it easy for stewards to safely grab a wandering dog.  Leashes are only problematic if an actual fight breaks out but, as AKC readily states, fights are rare.  And who the hell would ever take their leash off the dog and place it neatly behind them when leaving their dog in a public setting???
b. Stewards sitting either behind the dogs or at both ends to more quickly gather offenders.  Let's drastically cut the time it takes to grab the wanderers.
c. Cut the long down to 3 minutes.  Do any dogs ever move position from the down stay after the first 2 minutes?!?!

Other idea if AKC is open to real changes:
d. Honor stay either replacing one stay or both.  MUCH safer dog to human ratios, and I have NEVER seen either dog interfered with at the UKC trials I've stewarded.  At least the chances would be lower and one of the owners is there.  Can be a stupid sit.
I honestly believe that getting rid of the group stays would bring back some people who currently won't go past novice because of their fear of stays.  Yes, said people do exist.

4. Allow FEO entries and the ability to reward in the ring. With fun matches being a rare thing in many parts of the country, many dogs aren't getting any actual trial experience until they actually enter their first trial.  What harm does it do to allow FEO entries at a lower price, or even to turn your real run into a training run, and the ability to praise your dog.  I would even push for the ability to bring a non audible toy into the ring and perhaps even food (at minimum the lickey stick type).  I think this would increase entries and thus more money for AKC and the clubs!

5. Relax the rules on training in the ring.  I'm pretty sure that the original intent on the rule against training in the ring was not so that exhibitors could feel nervous about giving extra verbal cues or to remain silently frozen in place if their dog starts to form a bad habit in the ring.  Luckily in this area most judges are exhibitors themselves and will let most things slide if done in a respectful and non forceful manner.  NQ us yes, but please don't excuse us!

To me, perfectly acceptable allowances of training in the ring involve quick and quiet verbal and/or hand signals used to redirect the dog's path, interrupt the dog's behavior, or to praise during an exercise.
Unacceptable corrections would be if the judge perceives such verbal markers to be overly harsh and any instances of physical touching of the dog or collar to correct a performance.

6. More challenging heeling patterns.  While yes, I have only once achieved a perfect 40pts in heeling or signals, it would still be nice to allow more variation.  This last trial I was thrilled to have much more complicated heeling patterns in open than I've seen!  I would welcome with open arms in the Open B and Utility B classes patterns that allowed turns done in slow time and possibly even fast, and more turns in general being encouraged.  I would even enjoy moving downs/sits/stands like they have over seas.

More complicated patterns would certainly decrease some of the run offs!

7. Make Advanced Teamwork a titling class.  Give people a real incentive to train for the fun exercises!!!  I think it would increase in popularity if there was a tiny reason to spend time learning new exercises instead of just drilling old ones.

8. Combine the "Pre" classes with the "A" classes in judging.  Would take up less time since the only difference is in jump heights and the lack of stays.

9. Changes to the Novice Class.  Get rid of off leash heeling pattern but instead make the figure 8 off leash.  Make the recall over a jump.
Heeling is an advanced skill and it makes no since for there to be the most heeling in the novice class.  I would also think that by adding a jump you make it more fun to train for and a better introduction into open and utility.  I would even support being creative and compeltely overhauling novice.  The heart of obedience happens in the open and utility classes.  Novice should be preparing and encouraging teams for those classes.

10. Allow the execution of the broad jump on both sides.  The broad jump is the dumbest obedience exercise.  Jump the creek, dog!  I'll stand in the middle to help you!  Now come back and stand in the creek with me!  If we have to keep the stupid exercise than let's at least allow the handler to stand on either the right or the left side of it.  There is no compelling reason that the handler has to be on the dog's right side when standing in that creek.  But by allowing both sides you at least help to balance the impact of that hard turn on the dog's front.
Or, and even better, allow the handler to lead out 10ft past the broad jump but not pivot for the call front.  This brings both handler and dog out of the river and makes the front harder!

Kim  – ( March 13, 2014 at 5:08 PM )  

Great suggestions...I never understood groups stays anyways. I may have personal issues with AKC, but at least they offer a way for competitors to offer positive changes to their venue. A group like NADAC could learn a lot from other venues.

Laura, Lance, and Vito  – ( March 13, 2014 at 9:32 PM )  

Well AKC is THE standard in obedience. Especially if you want to prove to others that R+ trainers can succeed at upper levels you pretty much have to do AKC.

LOL about NADAC :) That's the difference being run by one person will get you. Although it's not as if AKC has really ever listened to the advisory committee in the past. At least not in obedience. I know judges who have been on it and nothing they say ever matters.

Merinda  – ( March 14, 2014 at 3:37 PM )  

A couple years ago, AKC started offering Masters titles in herding. So you could stay at the started level past your 3 qualifying scores without having to move up to Intermediate.
It's kind of like the jump from Novice to Open in obedience. BIG :)
But it offers an option for those that may need more time to train, but don't necessarily want to let the trialling aspect go. Or those who may never be able to train to an Intermediate level can continue to trial.

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